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  • An Analysis of the Minnesota Twins' Health During the 2019 Season

    Lucas Seehafer PT

    It goes without saying at this point, but the 2019 season was an utter success for the Minnesota Twins in terms of performance. The team won 101 games and the American League Central for the first time since 2010; three players - Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, and Jorge Polanco - were named to the All-Star team; and the Bomba Squad was birthed, hitting a record 307 home runs.

    Image courtesy of (c) David Berding - USA TODAY Sports

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    But how about in terms of health? One may assume that the Twins were pretty successful in that domain as well - after all, it’s pretty difficult to win over 100 games without the team’s best players remaining healthy for the majority of the season (the 2019 New York Yankees notwithstanding). But I decided to take a look into the data anyway because 1. I was interested and 2. What else am I going to do with my - suddenly expansive - free time anyway?

    My Method

    This was pretty simple, though it was rather tedious and time consuming. I scoured the Twins’ transactions pages on MLB.com from March to October 2019, so as to include all injuries that occurred from spring training to the end of the postseason. I logged the names, diagnoses, dates (both the date that athlete was injured as well as when they returned to play), and the total number of days missed of all Twins’ injuries that required a stint on the injured list. I then further broke down the data into pitcher and position player categories.

    The Results

    Prior to addressing the data, a quick disclaimer. A single season’s worth of data doesn’t provide enough of a sample size to draw big, sweeping conclusions. So what’s the purpose of this analysis, you ask? Again, I have free time and was curious. But, in all seriousness, it does provide a decent snapshot into whether or not the Twins’ players suffered from a particular type of injury (i.e. muscle strains or shoulder problems) more than others, as well as if one group of athletes (i.e. pitchers versus position players) were injured more frequently or seriously. Analyses such as this could help inform the team’s medical, front office, and coaching staffs and determine if more research needs to be conducted (such as if the data from previous seasons when combined with this displays any trends or if the team needs to look into establishing or refining rehab protocols). This type of analysis isn’t without its flaws - again don’t draw conclusions; this is more like a snapshot of a single moment in time rather than the whole movie.

    So, without further ado, the data. I developed the chart below from the information gathered during my research.



    General takeaways:

    • The Twins really only had two players of consequence suffer significant injuries: Byron Buxton and Willians Astudillo. The total days missed of these two combined (159) accounted for approximately one-quarter the team’s total (159 of 660; 24.1%).
    • Injuries of the shoulder and wrist-hand complex accounted for over half of all injured list stints (14 of 26) and nearly half of total days missed (318 of 660; 48.2%).
    • Position players accounted for more IL stints and total days missed compared to pitchers; however, both groups’ average days missed were essentially identical.
    • Injuries care not for which side of the body they come for. What does this mean? Most likely nothing!

    The Conclusion

    It would be difficult to argue that the Twins weren’t generally successful when it came to remaining healthy during the 2019 season. While 26 individual trips to the IL - provided that there aren’t any holes in the data - may seem like quite a bit, the fact of the matter is that the Twins only lost two players who were regular contributors for extended periods of time.

    Additionally, the Twins didn’t lose any of their starting pitchers - or relief pitchers of consequence, for that matter - to significant shoulder or elbow injuries. In a day and age where velocity is king - and many Twins’ pitchers saw their velocity increase last season - it was encouraging to see a lack of serious arm trouble. Consider that a win and potentially a positive sign moving forward for Wes Johnson and company.

    What are your thoughts? Do you think the Twins’ relative health during the 2019 season was luck? Or is it a sign of things to come?


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    Looking at your list reinforces the impression I had during the season: the Twins were unusually, phenomenally, unreproduceably lucky in terms of injuries. Except for Sano (briefly), Buxton (more frequently), and (at the end) Kepler, almost all of them were to players who weren't really any better than their replacements.


    Maybe the Twins have a lot of durable players who are simply not going to get injured. Or maybe they were very lucky. We won't ever know what would have unfolded had there been a 2020 season, but to expect a repeat of this good fortune seems optimistic. 

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    To me, not all injuries can be prevented no matter how you prepare.  Buxton shoulder was not because Twins did not do their best to keep him healthy, it was because he slammed it doing what he does trying to make great catches.  Sano cut his heal doing non baseball things in off season.  These are not team medical problems.  The fact that no pitcher had any major issues is a big thing, and if that can continue year in and year out that is something to emulate. Injuries from work load, or bad mechanics that are not corrected are a system issue.  Injuries from broken bones or non baseball actives are not a system issue. 


    So the longest injury that to me is from system issue, was Astudillo, but is it really system or player?  I like Astudillo overall, most likely because I am chubby myself and imagine I could do similar things when he runs the bases, but that chubbiness will lead to longer muscle issues most likely.  

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